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Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

Topics In The Chinese Economy

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This course is designed to introduce you to a wide variety of issues that are important for China's present and future economic and social development. The choice of topics is intended to help throw light on the nature, rationale and impact of China's post-1978 reform strategy. Neither this strategy nor its underlying policies can, however, be understood without reference to developments that took place during the post-1949 era under Mao Zedong. Accordingly, the discussion of each topic will give consideration to the pre-1978 background of more recent developments.

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to understand the major economic developments that have taken place in China since the introduction of reforms in 1978, the key challenges in China's future economic and social trajectory, and her importance in the international and regional economies.


Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight 'course units'. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Online Study Centre.


Ross Garnaut and Yiping Huang (eds) (2001) Growth Without Miracles: Readings on the Chinese Economy in the Era of Reform, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


You will receive three Reader volumes, which consist of a selection of academic articles and book chapters, which are assigned as core readings in the Study Guide. You are expected to read these articles as part of your study of this course. You may find that some articles and chapters have a wider range than the Study Guide, but they have been specifically chosen to present central arguments relevant to this course.

Online Study Centre

You will have access to the OSC, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the OSC, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The OSC also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

When you have completed your study of this course you will be able to:

  • discuss China’s demographic development and challenges since the 1950s, including the economic and social impact of population change
  • critically evaluate developments in post-1978 urban and rural labour markets
  • explain the importance that lies with agriculture – and, more generally, the rural sector – in China
  • identify the difficulties as well as future challenges faced by China’s energy sector, with special reference to the coal and oil sectors
  • evaluate China’s environmental problems and the current framework for dealing with such pressures
  • discuss improvements in living standards since the pre-1949 period
  • outline political imperatives and economic ties across the Taiwan straits
  • interpret the importance of the Chinese economy, both in the perception of China’s population and the people outside China.

Scope and syllabus

Course Content
Unit 1: China’s Transition to a Demographic ‘Golden Age’
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 An Introduction to Demographics
  • 1.3 Demographic Trends in China since 1949
  • 1.4 Population Policy in China since 1949
  • 1.5 Structural Features of Population and Population Changes in China
  • 1.6 Conclusion
Unit 2: The Employment Challenge
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Employment Structure and Trends – National and Regional Perspectives
  • 2.3 Urban Employment
  • 2.4 Rural Employment
  • 2.5 Conclusion
Unit 3: The Role of the Rural Sector in China’s Economic Growth
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 The Importance of the Rural Sector
  • 3.3 Post-1978 Reforms and their Effect on Rural Living Standards
  • 3.4 Rural Development – the Regional Dimension
  • 3.5 China’s Food Security in the Twenty-First Century
  • 3.6 Concluding Remarks
Unit 4: Energy Security – Meeting China’s Energy Needs in the Twenty-First Century
  • 4.1 Introduction to Unit 4
  • 4.2 The Energy Sector in China before 1949
  • 4.3 China’s Energy Sector during the Mao Era
  • 4.4 China’s Energy Sector under the Impact of Reform
  • 4.5 Conclusion
Unit 5: The Sustainability of China’s Economic Growth
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 The Origins of Environmental Degradation in China
  • 5.3 Environmental Degradation in China Today
  • 5.4 Pressures on Natural Resources
  • 5.5 Emissions and Energy Efficiency – a Brief Comment
  • 5.6 The Legal and Institutional Dimensions of Environmental Protection
  • 5.7 Conclusion
Unit 6 The Impact of Economic Growth on Welfare in China
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Socio-Economic Conditions in China before 1949
  • 6.3 Changes in Living Standards under the Impact of Reform
  • 6.4 Future Prospects
Unit 7: Economic Integration across the Taiwan Straits
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Cross-Straits Economic Relations
  • 7.3 Future Development of Economic Relations
  • 7.4 Concluding Comments
Unit 8: China’s Future Economic Trajectory
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Does the Chinese Economy Matter?
  • 8.3 Historical Resonances
  • 8.4 The Ideological Dimension of Economic Debate in China
  • 8.5 Economic Freedom
  • 8.6 Future Developments

Method of assessment

You will complete two Assignments which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the course, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Online Study Centre. You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.